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The 'astronomical' cost of asking a question in the European Parliament

Marian Harkin has hit back at claims that Irish MEPs spent less time in parliament last year – and asked fewer questions.

Marian Harkin with Independent TD Stephen Donnelly last year.
Marian Harkin with Independent TD Stephen Donnelly last year.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIAN MARIAN Harkin has criticised the lack of detail in a report which claimed that Irish MEPs spent less time – and asked fewer questions – in parliament last year than during 2011.

The Independent MEP strongly condemned the European Movement’s data on her and her colleagues’ attendance and question records, calling the report “misleading” and “unforgivable”.

Speaking to Karen Coleman from radioep.ie, Harkin explained that her office had made the decision to reduce the number of questions asked because of the “astronomical” costs to European taxpayers.

“What they didn’t say and what they should have said is that every single question we put down here in this parliament costs taxpayers across Europe – and in Ireland – somewhere between €800 and €1,400 – per question,” she said, adding that every question and answer has to be translated into the 22 official languages of the EU.

She claimed the cost to Europe is between €35 million and €80 million annually.

“Certainly in my office, once we discovered this, we said, ‘We’ll send emails, we’ll make phone calls, we’ll write letters’.”

Commenting on the poor attendance record, Harkin noted that Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley has been ill and unable to sit in sessions.

Ireland currently has 12 MEPs with an attendance record of 83 per cent for plenary sessions in 2012 – a decrease of 2 per cent on 2011. Between them, they raised 455 Parliamentary Questions, a drop from 683 in the previous 12 months.

The European Commission’s response time for questions can be up to six weeks.

Irish MEPs made 365 speeches in parliament, a slight decrease in the year.

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